ROCHESTER, N.Y. — College campuses across the country are making concerted efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. One way they are doing that is by changing what they're serving to students.
The Rochester Institute of Technology has pledged to offer at least 50% plant-based meals by 2025. It serves nearly 20,000 meals at 19 different locations across campus.
“We have freedom as Chefs here. But before we serve it to the student, we make a recipe, we test it out and make sure they meet our goals in terms of nutritional," said Herlan Manurung, corporate executive chef.
Chefs are curating more diverse food options for RIT's students.
“This is a black-bean burger, and we are topping it off with our plant-based chili," said Manurung.
The dining staff is exploring new ways to increase plant-based meal options.
“They need all the nutrients they need to be successful in the campus, you know, enough protein, enough carbohydrates and anything else. So that is our goal, to make it more healthier and tasty," Manurung said.
Chef Manurung began his culinary career in Indonesia. Growing up around food he had been fascinated by the culture and diversity it would give for all to enjoy.
“Food always has a story, and I would like to know the story behind it," he said.
Understanding the power of food, issues surrounding plant-based meals were introduced to Chef Manurung by the student government and the vegan club.
“It's really important to have, like, just more than just one or a couple of options, because if you're a freshman on campus and you're reliant on dining dollars and you only have three options, it's going to get very repetitive," said Karaline Foley, Vegan Club president.
Earlier this year, RIT officials signed a Forward Food Pledge, with the Humane Society of the United States, striving to have 50% of restaurant menu items being plant-based by the end of 2025.
“We know we can help them get there, but it's not a training and then we're gone," said Dorrie Nang, Humane Society food specialist. "It's just continual resources. And then continue as we develop our resources, continue to help them get to that goal. Because really the dining goal is aligned with the sustainability goal of the campus.”
With goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from animals by 50%, chefs are hoping to help the university save more than $50,000 for annual renewable energy. A benefit they not only see for the people, but also for the planet.
“I think there are an increasing number of students who are concerned about not only where their food comes from, but what's in it," said Nang. "And they want to eat ethically, compassionately. And I think RIT is one of the places that's making it really easy and clear for students to do that.”